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The Land of Smiles

 

children-left-behind-ENG

 

Thailand or “the Land of Smiles” has a warm climate with endless sun shinning upon plentiful fruit trees. It’s a country known by it’s multitude of extravagent Buddhist temples and extrordinarily friendly people. According to Thai culture, hospitality to family is valued above everything else. Maintaining one’s independence in life is of a lesser importance than taking care of the family. It’s a common gesture to welcome anyone who needs food and shelter into the household.

The family system is strong as grandparents, parents, children, as well as aunts, cousins, in-laws, and other extended family members tend to live in the same house or home system. It’s seen as honorable for the parents to work even if that means they have to be separated from their children. They sacrifice time with their kids to give their children a better life than they had with the money they earn. This in turn earns the parents a merit (In Buddhism, a result of good deeds that carry over the person’s lifetime).

Children with parents away having the higher percentage of 25% with developmental problems.

“Every child has the right to grow up in a caring, loving, and safe environment” expresses the head of UNICEF Thailand.  A year studying the issue and findings are continuing to develop to show the effects of parental migration. In the first portion there was a 9% difference when comparing children with developmental delays. Children with parents away having the higher percentage of 25% with developmental problems.

3 Million, or about 21% of Thailand’s population, are left behind children being raised by extended family mostly in rural areas. 90% live with grandparents, most of whom have only a primary school education, and are at risk themselves of financial instability and mental health issues. These children are often behind in language skills in school and have behavior problems. Grandparents and young children have an age gap that often hinders their ability to relate to the pain they feel, which limits conversation and opportunity for personal growth.

See Video: http://www.bangkokpost.com/multimedia/vdo/thailand/419287/children-left-behind

Sources:

http://www.bangkokpost.com/lifestyle/interview/419215/separation-anxiety

http://www.unicef.org/eapro/media_22694.html

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Home for the Holidays

migrant-workers-have-to-buy-expensive-tickets-home-reactions

“… I’m just thinking about making a bit more money here, then buy a house back home as soon as possible. Housing prices are too steep nowadays, still have to wait a few more years,” (Chinas Mack). Gao Changliang, a migrant worker, drove a taxi to provide money to his family. The mother stayed behind for the children but the family was fragmented. Living in the city is expensive. The city though provides the jobs the parents are looking for to earn money for their children to have a better quality of life. Gao Changliang and his family took an expensive high-speed train to be reunited with family for Chinese New Year. After the new year ends, the wife and children will go back to their hometown leaving the father behind to work in the city. 

Parents are doing what they think is right to provide a better life for their children. In the past few years the number of left behind children in China has doubled. A very common phrase that is heard in stories from LBC is they see their parents only once a year during the Chinese New Year Festival, which happily is tomorrow. It is now the time of the year we may rejoice in knowing that many children will be reunited with their parents for a joyful holiday celebration. We must also be aware that they lack the emotional support the rest of the calendar year.

Growing up in a household with no parents has significant psychological effects. The mental health of the child is a factor that we have to be aware of, and the parents also have to acknowledge when making the choice to work in the city. Working away provides food, clothing, and an education – a better future for the child. Or does it? 

1 in 7 children in one of the villages has migrant parents and live with their grandparents (tough times). The teachers say they need extra academic support. China’s strict residency laws prevent children from going to school out of their hometown. Professor Chengrong, academic and author, states “psychological and emotional problems are the most common,” (tough times). We can provide encouragement and support in their social life, emotional health, and education to the child left behind. Encouraging regular and meaningful communication between the parent and child is also a great need.

 

Sources:

http://www.chinasmack.com/2013/pictures/migrant-workers-buy-expensive-high-speed-train-tickets-home.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDxKaGPYFIY

 

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Parents in Temporary Labor Migration

mexicangirl

 

An article by Castaneda and Buck says family unit is more important than poverty for children illustrated in the dialogue below.

“You have it all. Good clothes. Good tennis shoes,”. . .

“I’d trade it all for my mother . . .  You can never get the love of a

mother from someone else” (Nazario 2006:xii).

Research studies show that transition is traumatic for the child. Whether it be a divorce or remarriage, a transition in the family structure impact’s a child’s poor school performance. When a child’s grades plummet, the teacher assumes something is happening in their home life. Family system disruption decreases the child’s chances of having healthy emotional and psychological development. Nobles (2006)  suggests that more than a third of Mexican children experience some type of household disruption during childhood,”(Cortes). Networks in indigenous rural areas helped next of kin, but very rarely provided assistance to non-family members. Migration brokers promise to help pay for the migration and while the parents works in a temporary labor position in America, they are expected to pay the broker or the family left behind is in debt. Mexican educational credentials are less important than US education. There is less incentive for the child to continue their education while the parent is away. Having migrant parents lowers the chance of boys completing junior high and girls completing high school. Migrant parents do not expect that the separation will cause they left behind children to suffer in school. Males tend to work to support left behind family and drop out of school. Females tend to dropout because of marriage. The Mexican community is known to criticize the migrant parent and in extension the child calling the parent a “social climber” and associating them with the negative image of illegal trafficking. This labeling causes the children to be looked down upon and margenalized. Safety issues  also arise from “lack of parental care, separated children and linkages with trafficking, recourse to institutionalization and child labour,” (Cortes). Parents work hard abroad to send money home to their families to improve their quality of life. The money sent home is given for the children. Teachers do not like the idea of the children having control over the money sent home.

From my personal observations on the opposite side of the issue, parental separation has detrimental effects on the child living in America. A child being raised in a Spanish-speaking community with the parent left behind in Mexico has the expectation in schools to learn how to read and write in English. The expectation in their household is to know both Spanish and English. The child often is raised in a home with grandparents, extended family members, and siblings who desperately want to visit Mexico to see their mom or dad. It is difficult for one to witness the drop in the child’s educational performance after the parent is away. The parent who sent the child to Americaa for a better life lives with extended family or friends. The parent wants to be with the child but there are so many factors against them. “A trip to the United States for most migrants involves physical danger, unpleasant working conditions, low social status, illegality, family separation, and other deterrents,” (Kandel and Kao) Migration is a tricky issue for the observer to fully understand. The parent works hard to provide the child with food, clothes, and a livelihood yet the impact of the disintegration of the family structure has many negative effects. This issue cannot be ignored by educators, child-care providers, or mental health counselors.

Lastly, the “abandonment” of parents not only hurt the child, but also impact the parent’s mental health. A study on parents who are left behind when children pirate to the United States were examined. Higher anxiety, sadness, loneliness, and a wish to die were significant psychological effects that were reported in the study (Arenas and Yahirun). It is therefore important to examine all sides to migration to effectively understand to impact of the family unit for one’s mental health and  education.

 

Sources

http://www.academia.edu/232141/_Left_Behind_The_Effect_of_Childrens_Migration_on_Parents_Mental_Health_in_Mexico_

http://www.childmigration.net/files/Rosalia_Cortes_07.pdf

http://www.jstor.org/stable/3092008?origin=JSTOR-pdf&

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1557-203X.2011.01136.x/abstract

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What is China doing to help Left Behind Children?

Twinkling Stars NGO-1

What is China doing to help LBC in it’s own country?

A non-governmental organization called Twinkling Stars has produced amazing results. Inspired by AVIVA’s “Street to School” project that focuses on equipping LBC with useful skills and supplies, Twinkling Stars has recruited 1,000 volunteers. They have helped about 9,000 left behind children in 11 provinces in China since 2010 (t-stars). Global Children’s Vision like Twinkling Stars creates centers with educational resources and enhances the parent to child communication experience. The work aims to improve the child’s emotional development and inspire them to dream. We both increase awareness on the importance of education and what that means for left behind children and their teachers.

The Twinkling Stars Children Painting Competition is a recent event in which about 500 children including LBC and city children have participated in. This is the work named House of Joy, by Haohan Cui, a child from Liaoning Provinces, which won the first prize.

Twinkling Stars NGO-1

They also launched a project in 2012 that focuses on LBC’s mental health, trying to provide constant and effective help. GCV’s mission is to strengthen each child’s confidence with empowerment tools. We eliminate the idea that based on one’s circumstances there is no hope for a better future. Left behind children have an increased chance of suffering from anxiety and depression (Zhengkui). They have a decreased interest in school and a higher likelihood of have difficulties with communication and trust. They feel like their mom and dad has abandoned them. They live on the streets and are mistaken as orphans. They fail in their classes because they don’t think it is worth it. They have higher chances of drowning from neglect and lack of supervision, being recruited as child prostitutes in the sex trafficking industry, and dropping out of school.

LBC have loving parents who just are unable to directly care for the child because of financial reasons, not because they “left them behind” for selfish reasons. It is a common misconception that left behind children are purposely neglected. The parent who finds work in the city earns money to provide the child with a better quality of life back in the villages. Twinkling Stars aims take care of the children that are benefiting from the money being sent home to sustain the grandparent and extended family members raising the children. The workers and volunteers take into account this population’s specific emotional, social, and academic needs.

A special project called Caring House (pictured below) is part of the Twinkling Stars accomplishments that has converted idle classrooms into special places full of toys, pens, and more than 100 items for children. Volunteers play with the children.

Twinkling Stars

 

 

 

 

How does this Chinese non-profit create positive change? This issue of Left Behind Children is global. It touches the lives of millions of children in China alone. Twinkling Stars empowers these children “by creating an inspiring environment for the children to do homework, classes, play and sing – to dream a little,” (AVIVA). Global Children’s Vision’s motto is Empower the Future. We must empower individuals and let them know that they are not defined by their circumstances. They can accomplish greatness if they are taught they can do anything. Teach children to be resilient by teaching them they are worth it then they can dream big.

 

Sources:

http://www.aviva.com/reports/cr11/regions/asia-pacific/communities/sts-social-media.html

http://www.t-stars.cn/

 Zhengkui Liu, PhD, Xinying Li, MD, and Xiaojia Ge, PhD. “Left Too Early: The Effects of Age at Separation from Parents on Chinese Rural Children’s Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression.” American Journal of Public Health Research and Practice 99.11 (2009): n. pag. Web.

 

 

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